A real miracle or the doing of extraordinary people?

Dec. 10, 2009

It’s been almost a year since St.-Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof became the first casualty of Operation Cast Lead, losing his life to Hamas mortar fire just as he entered Gaza early in the offensive. But sitting with his mother, Dalia, in her living room last week, I was struck not by loss, but by life. And not by grief, but by fervent belief. And by a more recent story about Dvir that simply needs to be told, especially now at Hanukka, our season of miracles.DvirResized

This past summer, Dalia and some friends planned to go to Hutzot Hayotzer, the artists’ colony constructed each summer outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls. But Dalia’s young daughter objected; she wanted to go a week later, so she could hear Meir Banai in concert.

Dalia consented. And so, a week later, she found herself in the bleachers, waiting with her daughter for the performance to begin. Suddenly, Dalia felt someone touch her shoulder. When she turned around, she saw a little boy, handsome, with blond hair and blue eyes. A kindergarten teacher by profession, Dalia was immediately drawn to the boy, and as they began to speak, she asked him if he’d like to sit next to her.

By now, though, the boy’s father had seen what was unfolding, and called over to him, “Eshel, why don’t you come back and sit next to me and Dvir?” Stunned, Dalia turned around and saw the father holding a baby. “What did you say his name is?” she asked the father.

“Dvir,” responded Benny.

“How old is he?” Dalia asked.

“Six months,” was the reply.

“Forgive my asking,” she continued, “was he born after Cast Lead, or before?”


Whereupon Dalia continued, “Please forgive my pressing, but can I ask why you named him Dvir?”

“Because,” Benny explained to her, “the first soldier killed in Cast Lead was named Dvir. His story touched us, and we decided to name our son after him.”

Almost unable to speak, Dalia paused, and said, “I’m that Dvir’s mother.”

Shiri, the baby’s mother, had overheard the conversation, and wasn’t certain that she believed her ears. “That can’t be.”

“It’s true.”

“What’s your last name?”


“Where do you live?”

“Givat Ze’ev.”

“It is you,” Shiri said. “We meant to invite you to the brit, but we couldn’t.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Dalia assured her – “You see, I came anyway.”

And then, Dalia told me, Shiri said something to her that she’ll never forget – “Dvir is sending you a hug, through us.”

At that point in our conversation, Shiri told me her story. She’d been pregnant, she said, in her 33rd or 34th week, and during an ultrasound test, a potentially serious problem with the baby was discovered. After consultations with medical experts, she was told that there was nothing to do. The baby would have to be born, and then the doctors would see what they could do. A day or two later, she was at home, alone, anxious and worried. She lit Hanukka candles, and turned on the news. The story was about Dvir Emanuelof, the first soldier killed in the operation. She saw, she said, the extraordinarily handsome young man, with his now famous smile, and she felt as though she were looking at an angel.

A short while later, Benny came home, and Shiri said to him, “Come sit next to me.” When he’d seated himself down next to her, Shiri said to Benny, “A soldier was killed today.”

“I heard,” he said. “What do you say we name our baby after him?” Shiri asked.

“Okay,” was Benny’s reply.

They told no one about the name, and had planned to call Dalia once the baby was born, to invite her to the brit. But when Dvir was born, Shiri and Benny were busy with medical appointments, and it wasn’t even clear when they would be able to have the brit. By the time the doctor gave them the okay to have the brit, it was no longer respectful to invite Dalia on such short notice, Shiri told me. So they didn’t call her. Not then, and not the day after. Life took its course and they told no one about the origin of Dvir’s name, for they hadn’t yet asked Dalia’s permission.

So no one knew, until that moment when a little blond-haired, blue-eyed boy – whom Dalia now calls “the messenger” – decided to tap Dalia on the shoulder. “Someone’s looking out for us up there,” Shiri said quietly, wiping a tear from her eye, “and this no doubt brings Him joy.”

IT WAS now quiet in Dalia’s living room, the three of us pondering this extraordinary sequence of events, wondering what to make of it. I was struck by the extraordinary bond between these two women, one religious and one traditional but not religious in the classic sense, one who’s now lost a husband and a son and one who’s busy raising two sons.

Unconnected in any way just a year ago, their lives are now inextricably interwoven. And I said to them both, almost whispering, “This is an Israeli story, par excellence.”

As if they’d rehearsed the response, they responded in virtual unison, “No, it’s a Jewish story.”

They’re right, of course. It is the quintessential Jewish story. It is a story of unspoken and inexplicable bonds. It is a story of shared destinies.

And as is true of this little country we call home, it’s often impossible to know which part of the story is the real miracle, and which is the doing of extraordinary people. In the end, though, that doesn’t really matter. When I light Hanukka candles this year, I’m going to be thinking of Dalia. Of Shiri. Of Dvir. And of Dvir.

I’m going to think of their sacrifice. Of their persistent belief. Of their extraordinary decency and goodness.

And as I move that shamash from one candle to the next, I will know that Shiri was right. These are not easy times. These are days when we really could use a miracle or two. So perhaps it really is no accident that now, when we need it most, Dvir is sending us all a hug from heaven above.

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About Daniel Gordis

Dr. Daniel Gordis is Senior Vice President and the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel, and a recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Dr. Gordis was the founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism.

70 Comments on "A real miracle or the doing of extraordinary people?"

  • Gabriel Seed says

    This story made me cry. A wonderful kavannah as Hannukah begins this year, that it should be one of peace for us and all of Am Yisrael. Until I read this, it had escaped my mind that the war in Gaza was a year ago on the Jewish calendar. It also gives new meaning to the idea of ‘tsror hachayim,’ the bond of life, as it was unknowingly transferred from one Dvir to another. (Not to mention the connection between the nsame Dvir and Hannukah).

    Yasher Koach to David Gordis and the families who were the story, Hag Urim Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

  • Daniel Baitch says

    This reminds me of a story that was profiled by a television magazine show, about a little girl who lost her father. She wrote him a letter and attached it to a mylar balloon with a picture of the Little Mermaid on it — sending it to heaven for him to receive it.

    Sometime later a man and his wife were walking and they found the balloon trapped in a bush. They read it and wrote a note to her, telling her that her father was OK in heaven. They then visited her and they developed a bond, becoming her pseudo grandparents. She believed they were sent from heaven for her.

    My eyes watered when this piece was shown. This piece about Dvir is just as moving. Whether or not it’s an Israeli story or a Jewish story, but it’s is a very human story. Thanks Danny for sending it.

  • Billie Kozolchyk says

    For Shiri and Dalia and your families- I couldn’t stop crying when I read about your miracle. But as I told my granddaughter recently when I cried because she did something absolutely wonderful, “Grownups cry when they’re happy.” In reading your story, my tears were a combination of joy at your discovery of each other and sadness at Dvir’s death and the endless struggle of the Jewish people. For many years I have said that in the Jewish world, there is only one degree of separation, not six.

  • Billie Kozolchyk says

    For Shiri and Dalia and your families- I couldn’t stop crying when I read abut your miracle. But as I told my granddaughter
    recently when I cried because shedid something absolutely wonderful, “Grownups cry when they’re happy.” In reading your story, my tears were a combination of joy at your discovery of eahc other and sadness at Dvir’s death and the endless struggle of te Jewish people. For many years, Ihave said that in the Jewish world, ther is only one degree of separation, not six.

  • Laurie says

    What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. Happy Hanukkah!

  • Steve Lipman says

    Wow what a beautiful story. I hope the appearance of little Dvir is a small source of comfort to you and your family. A beautiful story at this “Season of Miracles, Ba-yamim Ha-Hem U’be-zman ha-zeh.” Zichrono Livracha and Hanukkah Sameach!

    Foster City, CA

  • Thanks, Dan, for this extraordinary story. Hag samayach, Miriyam

  • Dov Kahana says

    I intend to share this story, this coming Sunday, with Jewish kids at the local Hebrew high school.

    There is more to Chanukah than lighting candles and eating latkes & sufganyot.
    We should on Chanukah, like we say on Pesach, tell the young generation the stories of our brave children who gave their lives so we can sit together, IN PEACE with family & friends, light the menorah and enjoy the latkes.

    It is important for the kids to know the pain and the sacrifice Israeli families are dealing with daily. The young lives who made the ultimate sacrifice – we should NEVER, NEVER forget.

    I’m named after my uncle who was killed in 1947 defending Har Hatzofim.

    My son is name after my nephew who was killed in Lebanon in 1982 at the age of 22.

    I was recently told: “its no longer a custom, by the young generation, to name kids after the dead” (?)
    What a shame? How shallow can you get?


  • orlee raymond says

    What a wonderful Hanukkah present! In these hard times it is heartwarming to read stories of humanity like this one. There truly is only one degree of separation!

  • Debra says

    What a beautiful story. I was deeply touched by your story and by the connect that we – the Jewish people – have. It is comforting. I wish you all Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.

  • sheila konar says

    It was a miracle and that little boy was the messenger.Thank you for sharing your miracle with so many of us who need one.

  • Mrs. Beverly Berger says

    Thank you, Danny Gordis for telling your subscribers about Dalia and Shiri.

    What an inspirational story for fellow Jews as Chanukah 5770 begins. You have brought tears to my eyes, but strength to the spirits of fellow Jews everywhere.

    The name Dvir has now become especially heroic foreverafter. A name for the rededication of Chanukah.

    Mrs. Beverly Berger

  • larry rosenman says

    This story moeved me to tears. It is people like this that will keep the Jewish people from Generation to Generation.

  • Debra Silver says

    I too wept from joy and sadness at this wonderful story of life and love from tragedy that is shared throughout the Jewish world… we are truly bound by myriad invisible threads of destiny and ethnicity to each in this restless tribe…
    How precious a bond has been created between that beautiful babe and his new savta? Life affirming and soul healing….
    I was also reminded of the photo of the late great Sam Orbaum’s gorgeous girls and of the joy I felt in seeing these facets of his living legacy… as much naches as if I were an aunt and not just a reader…
    and only in Israel would you find it on the Front Page of the Jerusalem Post!
    chag chanuka sameach to all and may we always find ways to share our light!

  • Susan says

    Thank you so much for the extraordinarily moving story.

  • Jack A Serber says

    Yes. This is a truly moving story. It did stir my emotions deeply. Regardless if this was a “happenstance” or “divine guidance” it moves us to remember that we are a People. We are all members of the same community. I know from many years of being closely tied to Israel and many Israelis that they all share the triumphs and the tragedies as members of the same family. I will share this story with my family.

    Chanukah Sameach v Kol Hakavod


  • Joan Levit says

    What a heartwarming story. I often wonder about miracles as I ponder why they don’t occur more frequently. Why do young people have to die before we realize the value of each life. Why is there sickness especially for the young, and all these other unanswerable questions. However, this story truly is a miracle and restores my faith a little. How wonderful that these two families find peace and comfort in these happenings. A wonderful Chanukah story.

  • Linda Kramer says

    This story captures the true essence of Judiasm all over the world. It is the blessings that keep our tribe united and the miracles keep coming.
    Thank you for sharing this story with my family and friends.

    Linda kramer
    San Francisco

  • Ricki Alon says

    This story is beyond us.
    We live in California and it is being shared with many of our friends and family.
    Please let the families know that we are with them crying and smiling and thinking of them and of the loss of Dvir the young solider and the son.
    I don’t know what message of comfort I could send them other than they are not alone with their paid.
    As to the young Dvir – your family is amazing and may you all be blessed.

  • What a touching and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    What a nation we are. I often find myself crying and smiling at the same time.

  • Ina Fine says

    Dear Daniel…thank you so much for telling us the story of the two Dvirs…..so touching and moving….I am in tears….please convey to Dalia and Shiri my good wishes to them for peace and pleasure in their friendship. Ina

  • Bryan says

    I choked up reading this. I’m not generally an emotional person, but this story is so wonderful. Thank you for sharing.

  • Sheryl Meyer says

    Thank you G-d for this Chanukah tale. Both mothers sound like special Yidden deserving this timely miracle. May they continue to be “A light unto our nation” and schepp nachas from their families.

  • Rahel says

    Thank you for sharing this moving story.

  • What a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing it.

  • Stefanie says

    So beautiful and a reminder of what we need to look for in our lives. All the small miracles we don’t always recognize. Thank you.

  • Elvire says

    Thank you. You warmed my heart. My only son was the love of my life from before he was born. He is 42 years old, has not spoken to me in the last 10 years, and has buried me alive, deciding he has no mother.

    Dalia, Shiri and little Dvir: le hayem.

  • val says

    Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing and have a happy Chanukkah.

  • Bobbie Morgenstern says

    Thank you for sharing that wonderful story! We need to be reminded that everyday, miracles still happen! Dvir, both of them, will be remembered in our prayers as we celebrate their light, this Chanukkah season.

  • Dahlia Oppenheimer says

    I type this with eyes blurred with tears. My heart goes out to Dalia and the Emanuelof family. I pray that you will find comfort in knowing that people from all over the world share in your pain and that your precious son, Dvir, will always be remembered for his heroism, thanks to the heartbreakingly beautiful piece written by Danny Gordis. To Shiri, and Benny – May you and your sons be blessed with a long and happy life. Your decision to name your baby Dvir in honor of such a courageous young man is a clear example of “chut ha-meshulash lo yinatek”. We Jews are all intertwined and interconnected – that is is our strength and our destiny. Chag Chanukah Same’ach.

  • Noa says

    When your email arrived with this story, I got a cup of tea and sat down, as I know I am always challenged/moved by what you write. This was an extraordinary story, a breath of Hashem! Thank you for writing about these two families.

    Happy Channukah.

  • G6 says

    Beautiful story.
    I found it via Treppenwitz.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Moses Feldman (Moshe) says

    A beautiful and touching story. It brought tears to my eyes.

  • Diane says

    Someone asked me a few days ago if I believed in miracles and she seemed surprised when I said “Definitely”.

    Now, I will always be thinking of that connection between Big Dvir and Little Dvir when I light the candles to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah.

  • Daniel,
    Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story in your special way.
    Chanukah Sameach,

  • Alice says

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story!

  • Clifton Rothman says

    A wonderful story connecting each of us to each other.
    Thabk You,

  • Howie Goodman says

    Beautiful story. Reminds me of of that TV series of a few years back starring Della Reese as an angel. But tell me: Fate followed tragedy. But why would Hashem allow Dvir to be killed in the first place?

  • Howie Goodman says

    Explain what you mean by moderation. It is a rhetorical question which, since the dawn of religion, cannot be answered. People just believe and await Moshiach to provide the answer.

  • How wonderful to be reminded that our Devir, a term that once meant the holy Temple, still incorporates the holy spirit of Klal Yisrael, now manifest in the brave men and women who defend and live in our Jewish state.

  • Hal Fine says

    Your son’s sacrifice and death were not in vain. Though painful and tragic, they demonstrate the difficulty of giving up part of yourself for others. May you keep having blessings in your life.

  • Star says

    This was Hashem’s work letting you know that Dvir is with him and helping both families find comfort and peace knowing that Hashem still gives us miracles. Happy Chanukah and shalom from New York.

  • Jonathan Morris, Ph.D. says

    Thank you for this profound story, which so eloquently expresses the timeless dilemma of the Jewish People, and recognizes our eternal debt of gratitude to Dvir and Dvir’s mother for being there, then, now and in the future.

  • VERA DE RUVO says


  • Cheryl Katz says

    I will share this story with my sons as we light the Hanukah candles in New York, Michael 25 and Daniel 23, who were both able to see Israel and meet their brave counterparts via Birth Right and USY Pilgrimage. Our love of Israel must pass on to the next generation!

    Cheryl Borenstein Katz
    Briarcliff Manor, NY

  • Daniel,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. Our rabbi read it to us in shul and a dear friend sent it to me this morning. And now it goes out to my children so they, too can share in this present-day Hanukkah miracle. How can one not believe in the Divine hand that placed these two families together? Blessings to Shiri and Dalia and their loved ones.

  • Dear Daniel,
    Thank you so much for that bittersweet story. I lost my beloved niece 13 years ago and I know she is the guardian angel of the daughter she never held. This story reminded me of the great loss that we all share when someone too young dies. As Thorton Wilder said: The bridge between life and death is love.

  • Dear Daniel,
    Thank you so much for that bittersweet story. I lost my beloved niece 13 years ago and I know she is the guardian angel of the daughter she never held. This story reminded me of the great loss that we all share when someone too young dies. As Thorton Wilder said: The bridge between life and death is love.

  • I know you are alive and strong with power given to you to obtain miracles as you did with little Dvir.
    I trust you. May you obtain for my daughter Sarah M. gives me a sign of reconciliation I will never foget your sacrifice and your mother will be in my heart always and THANK YOU TO little Dvir’s parents for having such a sense of fraternity and compassion.
    have the best hannukah

  • Chana says

    I cried when I read this. Thank you for sharing the story of Am Yisrael.

  • Perla Fox says

    What a wonderful tale. With all the terrible news we see every day, this was a joy to read. I’ll pass it on.


  • sharon levinson says

    an amazing heartwarming story.
    i just came back from a few days break, and
    this was the first e-mail i opened. it really made me appreciate our life even in a cold snowy wintery day in Britain.
    it is so nice that these 2 families connected.
    Hashem really works in His own ways.

  • Mary says

    Thank you for sharing that story.

  • Aryeh Horowitz, 12 years old says

    wow that is an amazing story.
    the phrase,’by the hand of g-d’ literally applies in this situation. it was really
    g-d’s hand that made the little dvir’s hand
    reach out and touch the older dvir’s mother’s shoulder and get the whole conversation started.
    again, unbelieveable

  • Hi David, Haven’t seen you in a while and loved the story. I had an experience in the Carlebach Shul a few years ago on Yom Kippur. Wearing all white and sitting on the aisle, a little boy of about two comes straight to me and I don’t know him. I kiss his head and he says to me, Ima. I look to the front and see Lon Bernell, ztl wife whom I only saw at the levia outside the shul. I said there’s Ima and he went running to her. She came over later and said he never does that. I told her Lon and I studied with Rabbi Eli Chaim Carlebach, ztl. and perhaps Lon was just saying hello. Hope you and your family are well. I’m hoping to come to Calif. in April for a Bar Mitzvah and maybe I can get to come to the Happy Minyan. If I do, Ben Zion is someone I hope to bring a short story. He gave me some strength to go back to writing (other than Kol Chevra). Have a wonderful, healthy, happiest year. All the best, SheilaDevorah

  • Baolio says


  • Ruth and Lou Abrams says

    We are very touched by this beautiful story.

  • Ruth and Lou Abrams says

    A beautiful story beautifully told.

  • Susan Lando says

    Touching, tearful, wonderful…we all need some uplifting truths. Thank you.

  • wow wow wow
    just wow

    I am grateful to have been given this glimpse of G-d’s Hand. Frankly, we need to see more of His open goodness.

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    (and thanks to treppenwitz-came via his blog)

  • No country,is soo special like the holy land,no people are soo special like the jewish people,and if we not take care of our country and our people,no body will,we are a family and if we take care of our family,we will have a great people and a great country.
    I will write in the calendary the date whem Dvir left,and I will say kadish every year.
    Thanks for sharing this story with us.

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